Even though I have lived on the east coast my entire life, I’ve not spent much time in Pennsylvania.
When I was in first grade, I won the best reader award in my class. The prize was a bus trip to Pennsylvania Dutch country for the day. I remember people wore funny hats and I got to be up front to look at things because the other first grader and I were the smallest kids on the trip.
I returned a few years later, in my forties, on a work trip to Philadelphia. I remember a good Italian restaurant and a hotel bartender’s recommendation on where to get a cheese-steak.
So I haven’t seen a lot of Pennsylvania until recently. On Wednesday and Thursday I put the top down on my car and drove to and from Hershey, PA for a Bruce Springsteen concert. If you’re saying “a day trip to Hershey doesn’t move you into the “spent a lot of time in Pennsylvania” category, I agree.
But I’m going to say that I was able to draw some definite conclusions.
Pennsylvania is a beautiful state. I was convinced of that on my drive to Hershey, even at interstate speeds. On the way home I set Google Maps to avoid highways, threw the top back on the Miata and took the back roads. I was right, it’s even prettier between thirty-five and fifty m.p.h.. The back road drive, through small towns and forests was amazing. I’m so glad I took the time to take my time.
But I reached another, darker, conclusion about The Keystone State during my twenty-four hours there. Pennsylvania is a lousy place to be a deer.
I’ve said that I was at a Springsteen concert, so perhaps you’re wondering how I know how many deer are in Pennsylvania. It’s because there are so many of them dead on the side of the road. The shoulders of Pennsylvania roads – Interstates, secondary highways, twisting back roads – are carpeted with what used to be deer.
They Are Everywhere
As I was driving in to the state I saw my first deer along the interstate. It wasn’t pretty. It had been there a while. Compared to the next one, it really hadn’t. There was another and another and another. It just seems that cleaning that sort of thing up is not something the state or local government does.
How many dearly departed deer did I see along the highway in Pennsylvania? I don’t know, but I can tell you that it was far more than I’ve seen anywhere in my life. I can also tell you that I saw so many, in different states of decay, that I now qualify as an expert witness in court in determining the cause and time of death in deer murder cases.
You’re going to think I’m lying about this, but I’m not. I even saw a deer skeleton.
Maybe I Should Go Again
So now, after three visits to Pennsylvania I have three distinct impressions of the state:
First grade: People wear funny hats. I get to be up front. There sure are a lot of farms.
In my 40’s: Philly is a cool place where you can get great Italian food. Also, bartenders know where to get the best cheese-steak sandwich.
In my 50’s: Gorgeous scenery. A peaceful place. Great drive. Seriously, could they at least Febreze the deer?
Three trips to Pennsylvania, nine thoughts. Eight of them are valid. The only one that I realize is no longer true is that I get to be up front. I did not get to be up front for the Bruce Springsteen concert like I did for the butter churning demonstration in first grade. Pity.
I’ll have to go back for more research.
Note to self – keep the top and the windows up.
Saturday night, I saw a deer while I was driving. That’s pretty common. I’ve seen plenty of deer. What makes this sighting notable is that I spotted the deer as he was bouncing off my car.
This encounter happened as we followed some friends along an unfamilar road. I later learned that the friend’s daughter spotted the deer standing next to the road before the collision. The deer let the first car go by, then decided to cross the road. It was a most unfortunate choice on his part.
We Had An Agreement
Before this little meeting, I was sympathetic toward deer. We built roads through their wilderness and they’d get hit by cars as a result. My opinion has changed.
If you fly over this country, you’ll see that the majority of it isn’t urban development. There are forests, meadows and farms – plenty of room for deer to conduct their business. Even in developed areas, people’s yards and public park land are perfect for deer. We cede all this land to them. “Do whatever you do, out there” we say, “just stay off our roads and everything will be fine”. Read the rest of this entry »